Cover photo for Miller Francis Stayrook's Obituary
Miller Francis Stayrook Profile Photo

Miller Francis Stayrook

d. January 21, 2020


MILLER FRANCIS STAYROOK, 90 of Hesston, KS, went to serve his Lord on January 21, 2020. He was born the third of 11 children on June 22, 1929 to Morton and Ruth (Miller) Stayrook in Davidsville, PA.


He is survived by his wife, Vernabelle, his daughters, Carol Sue Stayrook-Hobbs and John Hobbs of Newton, KS; Joyce (JP) and Mark Pankratz of Kechi, KS; and his son, Steve and Cynthia (Cyd) Stayrook of East Petersburg, PA; as well as his sisters, Eunice Hersberger, Patricia Calloway and Maretta (Tom) Hammitte; step-children Amy Wiens and Eric Wiens; 8 grandchildren – Elizabeth, Sara, Nathan, Daniel, John Wesley, Anachie, Ian, Eddy;  5 great grandchildren and special family friends Darla and Jason Mavis (children Brayden and Mallory). He was preceded in death by his first wife Carol (Hooper) Stayrook, son Ricky Allen, his parents, six brothers – Harold, Morton Jr, Carmon, Luther, Spencer and David, his sister Esther and special family friend Fiona O’Kene.


In 1945, Miller was baptized and became a member of the Stahl Mennonite Church near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he was a member of the following Mennonite churches during his life: Vincent (Spring City, PA), South Colon (MI), Kalamazoo Mennonite Fellowship (MI), Faith Mennonite Church (KS) and Belmont Mennonite Church (IN). He also served as a pastor at Kalamazoo Mennonite Fellowship and Deer Creek Mennonite Church (OK). Throughout his life he showed and enjoyed his love for the Lord by contributing to church life as Sunday school teacher, song leader, youth choir director, committee member and committee chair.


Miller attended Conemaugh Township schools graduating from Johnstown Mennonite High School. He earned a BS in Education from Eastern Mennonite College, an MA from Western Michigan University and an MSW from the University of Michigan.


In addition to teaching at the Mennonite Christian Day school in Spring City and Souderton (PA), Colon Community Schools (MI) and Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo (MI), Miller went on to teach at the Western Michigan University Graduate School of Social Work (MI) and Bethel College in North Newton (KS).


Early in 1952, Miller made the decision that he could not willingly participate in the military and in July of that year, entered the PAX program assigned to the Friends Boys School in Ramallah. In August of 1953, he was transferred to the Welfare Center for Palestinian Refugees in EsSalt, Jordan which was sponsored by the Anglican Bishop where he served at the health clinic, soup kitchen and literacy program.


When he returned to the states, Miller taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade English and Social Studies at the Franconia Mennonite School in Souderton (PA). During this time, he met his wife Carol Hooper, whom he married March 16, 1957. The newly married couple left for Algiers in July where they were tasked to administer the PAX program and study the mission possibilities (along with learning the language!) for the Mennonite Board of Missions.


The Stayrooks returned to the United States in 1960 and Miller returned to Eastern Mennonite College for a semester to graduate with his teaching degree. Following graduation he began teaching English at the high school in Colon where he was also assigned to direct a play each year. After two years in Colon, he moved to Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo to teach English.


During his time at Loy Norrix, in one particular class, each student was assigned to write weekly in a journal. While Miller read these journal entries, he became aware of problems affecting his students and often invited them to discuss their issues after class. He often requested assistance from the school social worker when difficult situations were encountered. As a result of the work Miller accomplished with his students, the school administration requested he transfer to school social work and they would assist in getting the required certification, including the MSW at the University of Michigan. He assisted in establishing the Edison Center, a school-based center providing social work and mental health services to the community as well as breakfasts and lunches for the students and needy senior citizens in the neighborhood. He worked in bringing the Boys Club into a new addition at the Edison Elementary School.


In 1975, Miller accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Social Work at Bethel College in North Newton (KS) and continued there in various other roles until 1986 (Director of Contract Degrees, Director of Summer programs and nonacademic uses of campus facilities). In 1986, he began with the Kansas Department of SRS with obtaining regional grants and contracts, Director of community Work Experience Program, investigator of child abuse and neglect and later a member of a computer development team. After retiring from SRS, he became Director of COMPEER, a program with the South-Central Kansas Mental Health Association in Wichita (KS) in 1995. In 1997 he received the Budney Award from the National Mental Health Association as the Social Worker of the year. The State of Kansas utilized his knowledge to asses if a program piloted in Long Beach (CA) could be replicated in Wichita, which resulted in the Cero’s Candy business being purchased to employ persons with chronic mental illness. (Ceros makes exquisite chocolates for corporate gifting.)


In 1999, Miller married Vernabelle Wiens and they spent their first three months  of married life in Palestine/Israel to volunteer at Nazareth Village. After returning, he continued volunteering at Menno Hof (Shipshewana, IN), Rocky Mt Mennonite Camp, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (11 years!), Frazer Valley Gleaners Program and other local community agencies in the Goshen/Elkhart area.


He and Vernabelle lived in Goshen (IN) from 2001-2018 when they moved to an independent living unit at Showalter Villa in Hesston (KS).


Visitation will be Friday, January 31st from 5-9 with family present from 6-8 at Peterson’s Funeral Home with a Memorial Service at Hesston Mennonite Church on Feburary 1st at 10:30 am with a light lunch and sharing to follow. The service will be live-streamed at In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in care of Hesston Mennonite Church, 309 S Main, Hesston KS 67027 esston KS H.






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